Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local News

June 3, 2014

Thomas County extension service

THOMASVILLE — The warming of spring days brings about a flurry of questions concerning our vegetable gardens landscape and lawns. One particular question that keeps a county agent on their toes is any question about a weed in the landscape.

It seemed like every other time I answered the phone this spring, I heard, “There’s some little weed out there that has stickers on it”.

Folks observe that the lawn is infested with a spiny, lowgrowing weed that is annoying them.  What is this weed and how the do we get rid of it?

The weed in question is most commonly lawn burweed (Soliva pterosperma), a.k.a. spurweed,  stickerweed, sandbur, and sandspur. Lawn burweed is a winter annual member of the Aster family. The weed germinates in the early fall months as temperatures cool and remains small or inconspicuous during the cold winter months.

However, as temperatures warm in the early spring, or about the same time as spring sports activities, lawn burweed initiates a period of rapid growth and begins to form spine-tipped burs in the leaf axils.

 The sharp-tipped spiny burs of this weed can cause minor irritation to the skin. Former UGA Extension Weed Scientist, Dr. Tim Murphy, says key identification characteristics of lawn burweed are one) opposite, sparsely hairy leaves that are divided into numerous segments, or lobes, two) small, inconspicuous flowers, and three) spine tipped burs that are found in the leaf axils (junction of leaf and stem).

Lawn burweed reaches an overall diameter of up to six inches and a height of about three to four inches.

 Lawn burweed can be easily controlled during the winter months. Winter months are ideal to apply herbicides for the control of this weed. The weed is smaller and easier to control during this time of year and has not yet developed the spine-tipped burs. Control is not impossible in March and April but the spines have already formed by this time and will remain after the weed dies.

Some options to control lawn burweed are three-way mixtures of 2,4-D, mecoprop (MCPP) and dicamba. These products can be used on bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass.

This group of products should be applied on a warm (at least 55° F.), sunny day. Two to three weeks after the initial application, lawn burweed control should be evaluated.

If control is not acceptable, an additional application may be necessary.

 In addition to three-way herbicides, there is another herbicide that can be used for lawn burweed control in home lawns. Atrazine may be used for control in centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass. Atrazine applied in November will have postemergence activity against newly sprouted lawn burweed seedlings and also will have preemergence activity against those that have not yet germinated during the fall.

 The key factor in controlling lawn burweed is to apply an appropriate herbicide during the winter months. Lawn burweed is small and easier to control that time of the year. Also, turfgrasses are not actively-growing during the winter months and have better tolerance to some herbicides.

 Lawn burweed can be controlled in late-March, April and early May.However, two main facts should be considered. Lawn burweed begins to die as late spring temperatures approach 90° F and the plant is harder to control once the spiny burs have formed.

Multiple herbicide applications are usually necessary, which increases the risk of temporary injury to the turfgrass.

 Additionally, it takes time for the herbicide to control lawn burweed, and after death, it takes time for the dead burweed plants to decompose, which is one of the main problems with late treatments. Dead lawn burweed plants contain dead, or brown spine-tipped burs.

Dead or alive, the spiny burs still present a problem. The only recourse at this point is to allow time for the plant to naturally decompose.

 Information from this article was taken from “Lawn Burweed-It’s A Sticky Problem” by Dr. Tim Murphy and “Lawn Burweed” from Clemson Extension.

For additional questions, contact Andrew Sawyer at the Thomas County Extension office at 225-4130 office or cell 229-225-8952  or email at

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